Hunter Kuester is a board member for the Wisconsin Association of Blind Students. He attends University of Wisconsin Stout and is majoring in hospitality management and real estate property management.
Want more info on getting involved on campus? Check out the NABS Now Podcast episode entitled “Getting Involved: Not as Scary as You Think”. It’s under the Stay Up to Date tab and NABS Now Podcast link on this site.
Finding our place on campus can be especially challenging as blind students, but the one thing that all of us share is the common goal of improving ourselves. Getting involved on campus is a perfect way to do this. In this blog post, I will delve into the importance of getting involved, tips for finding your place, and benefits of forming connections on campus.
First, there are many ways to get involved on campus. For myself, I found it important to find a social club that allowed me an opportunity to unwind and take the focus off school and the workload of being a full time student. You have probably heard the quote “find your one” a thousand times when leaving high school and in orientation week. A social club, such as board game club, or in my experience, the Brewing Craft Science Association, could be a great place to start socially. Finding a group of people who share a common interest can lead to finding a few friends. If nothing else, it can create connections with other students on campus in a general way. Even though you may be playing uno or brewing a batch of kombucha, networking never stops. This doesn’t mean you should only find one way to get involved; opportunities are always popping up in all corners of campus. Clubs and organizations are a built-in way to find your place and make friends. With that being said, they are not the only place to look. Work study and student government are some other valuable examples of chances to expand your college experience and learn the school around you.
Even though clubs are made for students to expand their experiences around school, they have benefits beyond making friends or picking up a new skill/interest. Organizations offer many chances to strengthen your abilities as a leader. Becoming an officer who helps direct actual change in your community is extremely empowering. The last benefit of getting involved is that some associations, fraternities, or sororities can follow you into a professional career and may link you to your dream job. Some of you may be wondering: this sounds great and all, but how can I get involved for real? You make it sound so easy, and it’s well…. not. I have some tips and tricks to share that I use on my own campus. To start, each school hosts an event at the beginning of each semester (in some cases every fall) to showcase all the different organizations on campus with leaders of each of these clubs available to chat. This event is an opportunity for students to get to know the purpose of a club and get connected with all the campus has to offer. This can be a stressful experience, since it is usually a larger event with lots of people talking, many clubs, and a short time to visit. Going with a friend or meeting with the organizers prior to the event could help lower anxiety levels when looking for opportunities that catch your attention. Asking questions and getting to know the leaders or reps from each booth that you are interested in can create a bond that helps them remember you when the first meeting rolls around.
Another tip is if you have work study, sign up for a job as soon as possible. Work study is an incredibly valuable way to help build your connections in a part of campus, whether it be University Dining or Disability Services. Socially, working with students that have a wide variety of backgrounds and majors offers prospectives that may differ from yours, which can be instrumental in growing throughout your college career. Not to mention, working off college debt is a super rewarding feeling.
My final tip for involvement is to keep an open mind and a positive outlook, kind of cliche, I know. The first couple organizations you find may not work out, and that’s okay. Not everything works for everyone. Keep looking, and opportunities that fit you will come along soon enough.
I wrote this blog post from my own personal experience. I found myself joining Student Senate not knowing anything about a student government. Still, I saw that I could make a difference for my fellow students and students that would come after me. I recognized that I could work to improve the school as a whole, while, at the same time, building my professional skills and my resume. Involvement is a challenging process sometimes, so this post isn’t to say that it won’t be a little uncomfortable. I Live by a quote that states “if you are not growing you are dying”. This is a mindset I have adopted in my life; I always try to improve myself in whatever situation I find myself in. I was unhappy with being a brand new transfer student at the University of Wisconsin Stout, so I sought ways to change, which led me to getting involved. You can do it, too. As blind students, we possess. Unique perspective, but it’s easy to forget that sometimes during the rush of college life and finding where you fit in. Find your people, and have some fun along the way!